Dave’s Free Play, Sunday 7/28/13
Another very good result on Saturday, as both the Padres and Indians provided an excellent return as underdogs. So, 2-0 and a very nice profit for the day. I’m not much for hype, as you’ve probably noticed if reading this page on a regular basis. So I’ll just say I’m on my best roll of the season right now and will leave it at that.
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I’ve been on the Indians the last two days, so it’s not a bad time to examine whether this team is a legit playoff contender or just a pretender likely to taper off in the last two months. They’re just three games off the lead in the AL Central, and just one loss behind in the second wild card race, so there’s no question that they’re in it right now.
I don’t think the roster as it’s currently comprised can make the post-season. That’s not a slam dunk call, but the Rangers and Orioles have each already taken steps to improve. The Tigers might well do so as well. The Indians have some needs, and while they obviously cannot address all of them, nor would they be wise to deal any legit top prospects, there are some things they can do to improve.
First, fix the bullpen. Chris Perez is pitching well, so no need for a closer. But the supporting cast is dicey. Here’s the good news for the Tribe. They have a ready made one or two inning guy in their system right now. Danny Salazar is a future starting pitcher for the Indians, and I would have no argument if they plugged him into the rotation right now. But the bigger need is in the bullpen and with Salazar on both an innings and pitch count limit coming off his TJS, he’s a great fit for the relief corps. This guy has an electric arm and there is no doubt in my mind he could take over the seventh or eighth inning right now. As that’s the biggest worry spot on the staff that I can see, Salazar should be called up and with the way he’s overmatching minor league hitters right now, it’s pointless to keep him at Columbus.
The Indians also need a bat they can plug into the lineup someplace. Jason Giambi is pretty much toast at this point, so a lefty hitter would be nice. Ideally, the Indians need a good contact type they can plug into the #2 hole. Nick Swisher is a far better fit lower in the order. Sure, it would be awesome if Cleveland could land a big bat to hit cleanup, which would allow Asdrubal Cabrera to be moved to a spot in the order more suited to his talents. But realistically, that’s not going to happen. Justin Morneau would be a perfect fit for the Indians, but he plays in the same division and will probably cost too much anyway.
I’ll toss out a name who might not be the perfect fit, but would be a plus pickup and would not cost the Indians much at all. Jesus Guzman is a guy who can rake a little, he can play some 1B or OF, or he can certainly DH. There might well be better players available, but I really don’t have inside info as to who they are. However, Guzman is a guy who apparently can be had for the right price, and I doubt that it would take all that much to pry him from the Padres.
Here’s another possibility, and from a fit standpoint, he’s likely the best realistic option for the Indians. The Cubs are willing to deal any veteran on their roster. Nate Schierholtz is a lefty bat, and he could slide right into the #2 spot as a platoon player for Cleveland. It’s not like the Indians would have to part with Francisco Lindor to get Schierholtz, either. The Indians have a boatload of projectable pitchers in their system. Package a couple of them and get a guy who might help them right now. If I were the Indians GM, I’d be trying to make this deal happen tonight.
The bottom line is that when you haven’t won in some time and have a realistic chance to do so right now, you don’t fart around and hope to get lucky. The Indians are in this thing, and there is little excuse for them not making the one or two moves that could propel them into October.
07/28 10:10 AM MLB (901) PITTSBURGH PIRATES (902) MIAMI MARLINS
Take: (901) PITTSBURGH PIRATES
There are some outstanding rookie pitchers enjoying their maiden voyages around the majors right now. Two of those young talents hook up on Sunday as the Pirates close out their series with the Marlins.
There’s not a whole lot to choose between Gerrit Cole and Jose Fernandez. Off the metrics, Fernandez has an edge, but it’s not by a whole lot. If you’re asking me which guy is going to be the bigger long term star, I’d side with Fernandez. But at the present time, it’s a very close call off the compiled data. So based on the starting pitching, this game is lined just right. But there’s more to breaking down a game than simply handicapping the starting pitchers.
The Pirates won’t scare anyone with their offense, but it’s still a better attack than that of the Marlins. The bullpen edge goes to the Bucs as well, although there is a cautionary note here. Since Jason Grilli went down, the bullpen dynamic for Pittsburgh has been altered, and there is cause for concern there now. It’s also worth mentioning that the Miami pen has been good lately.
One other concern is the play of the Marlins. It has probably gone unnoticed for the most part, but over the last seven weeks or so, Miami has been playing winning baseball. Factor in the prices on this squad, and the Marlins have evolved into a surprising cash cow.
All that said, and even noting that I know the visitors are going to get the majority of the volume, I am siding with the Pirates here. When including all the variable I use to make a number on a game, I come up with the Bucs as the favorite. But as this is being written, it’s pick ’em. That indicates at least a little bit of value on Pittsburgh. I’ll take what figures to be the “square” side here and will lean the Pirates way.